The year 1977 was a milestone for Alaska. The $8 billion, eight hundred-mile trans-Alaska oil pipeline had just been completed and the first oil started flowing in June.
That was the year Marie Greene moved from her home village of Deering to Kotzebue to work for the Northwest Arctic Native Association, the precursor to NANA Regional Corporation.
NANA and the other eleven Alaska-based Native regional corporations, created by the landmark 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, were just getting their feet under them and had yet to make on impact on Alaska.
In the nearly four decades since she first walked through NANA's doors, the corporation has grown to be one of the largest Alaskan-owned businesses in the state, with 2013 revenues in excess of $1.7 billion. NANA Development Corporation, the business arm of the organization, operates in all fifty states, three US territories, and nine countries around the world. NANA Regional oversees a varied slate of programs that directly and indirectly benefit shareholders through scholarships, job training, employment, cultural programs, and lands protection.
Greene, sixty-seven, who became NANA's president and CEO in 2002, announced her retirement this fall, effective January 1, 2015. She gives credit to the people around her for NANA's success.
"In my younger years, I was blessed to be mentored by my grandmother, by Robert Newlin Sr., by our elders, and others," she says. "They taught servant leadership. If you are a leader, you are there to serve the people, to work as part of the group, the team--to learn, to help, to move things forward. It is always a team effort. It was then and it is now."
All of NANA's Leaders are Shareholders
About 13,500 shareholders of Inupiat descent own NANA. Greene is one of them. She notes that all of NANA's leaders were, and still are, shareholders.
"Because of that, we automatically want to do the best we can," she says. "We never forget that we are here to work on behalf of our people, that our successes and our failures are shared. So that provides a great deal of motivation to work hard.
"It has been one of the greatest honors and joys of my life to serve my people in this role at NANA and I will always be grateful that I was allowed to work in this capacity."
Donald G. Sheldon, NANA's board chairman, said in a news release: "Leadership positions require that the individual give up a great deal of personal time with family. I completely understand Marie's...